How to Choose the Right Physical Therapy College Near Juneau Alaska
Earning a physical therapist degree near Juneau AK is a critical first step to beginning a fulfilling career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been debilitated due to illness or injury gain back function and mobility. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to acquire the appropriate education and training. A PT must also be licensed in all states, a large number mandating that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's necessary to investigate those you are thinking about to make certain they will furnish a superior education and comply with your state's licensing standards. What you do not want to do is enroll in a school just because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other significant qualifications that need to be evaluated in addition to location and cost. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll address what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.
What is a Physical Therapist?
Physical therapists practice in diverse settings, such as Juneau AK hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously mentioned, physical therapists help patients that are suffering from a lack of mobility and often pain caused by injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they create a course of treatment to address the mobility problems and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also endeavor to prevent any advancement of the disability. Though the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:
- Osteoporosis and Arthritis
- Car or motor cycle accidents
- Cardiac arrest
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Fire injuries
- Hip Replacement
- Cerebral Palsy
Licensed physical therapists practice in close affiliation with other Juneau AK health specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They can also oversee several physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to take note of for anyone thinking about going into the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapy Degrees
There are 3 physical therapist degree options available for students to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these choices, the only degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees focus on either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are short summaries of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Juneau AK area:
- Associate Degrees educate students to become physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have earned a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The programs are most often provided by junior or community colleges, and require 2 years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is usually a component of the curriculum.
- Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapy training to prep candidates to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an integral initial step to practicing as a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally take four years to finish and often include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are a requirement in order to become a practicing licensed physical therapist. The degree program must also be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). After earning the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes 3 years to complete, making the total investment of time seven years in the majority of cases. Clinical or practical training is an important component in addition to the considerable lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is required, not just for graduation but in several states for licensing as well.
The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has replaced the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been phased out and is no longer offered in the USA. Some licensed physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.
Physical Therapy Online Schools
Although not as common as the on-campus alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist degrees available, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are integrated with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the school campus or in proximity of an available internship. Fortunately, the online segment of the curriculum can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Juneau AK home. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many instances more affordable. Tuition may be significantly lower than comparable on-campus options, and expenses for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These benefits can make the online option the right choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.
Questions to Ask Physical Therapy Colleges
By now you probably have made a decision regarding a few of your preliminary queries, including the type of physical therapy degree you want to earn, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are numerous PT colleges within the Juneau AK area and across Alaska, you'll have to research additional qualifications as well in order to further reduce your list of school options. Furthermore, you want to make sure that you select the program that is right for you. That's why we have collected a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapist programs you are thinking about. Ask each of the competing colleges these questions before making an ultimate decision.
Is the Physical Therapist College Accredited? Ask if the programs you are reviewing have received accreditation from a national or a regional agency. As previously stated, if you are pursuing a doctorate the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you select an online college, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy school and program you select are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Along with ensuring that you receive a quality education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial aid.
What is the College's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you choose have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are several ways you can research a PT school's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Call several Juneau AK physical therapy clinics or other healthcare facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can offer any insight about your school options. It may also be a good idea to check with the Alaska Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been submitted against the colleges.
What is the School's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two relevant statistics that you should know about each of the physical therapy colleges you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A low rate might suggest that students left due to dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the help of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Juneau AK area? If a school has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the healthcare field is good or perhaps outstanding. It also affirms that the school has a wide network of contacts to help students gain internships or jobs upon graduation.
Does the School Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the program you select provides both exceptional training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing requirements for Alaska or the state where you will be practicing. In each state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapist school. While licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, a number of states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on additional tests.
Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Ask if the physical therapist colleges you are evaluating have relationships with Juneau AK clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific means to receive hands on training in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they may assist graduates and students establish professional relationships in the Juneau medical community and assist with obtaining employment once licensed.
What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the kind of student that likes to sit far in the back of class or get lost in the crowd, you will likely want a small class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are considering what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you a chance to converse with several of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program also.
Where is the School Located? For many students, the physical therapy college they choose will need to be within travelling distance of their Juneau AK home. Students who have chosen to attend classes online obviously will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of concern. Something to consider is that if you choose to enroll in a school that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges commonly charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges often charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? Most DPT schools offer some type of financial assistance to their prospective students. Find out if the colleges you are examining have a financial aid office and see what kind of help is obtainable. At a minimum they should help in acquiring a student loan or any scholarships you might qualify for. A number of physical therapy colleges provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is too expensive, ask what financial assistance may be available.
Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must verify that the physical therapy college you ultimately choose can offer the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you decide to continue working while you attend classes. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Juneau AK area, make sure that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, check if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would have to enroll in. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss due to work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Right Juneau Physical Therapy School
Selecting the right physical therapist college is a necessary first decision you need to make to start a rewarding career in the healthcare field. As we have discussed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you pick should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. But there are other critical questions that you need to ask pertaining to your college of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapist college keep in mind that many variables will lead you toward your ultimate decision. You might want to visit different colleges to see their facilities and speak to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this program help me accomplish my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the right choice. And with the necessary training and education, you can fulfill your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Juneau Alaska.